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Quick(ish) No-Knead Bread


This is my current favourite loaf, bar none. It’s easy to make – though the ‘quick’ part of the title definitely needs to be taken in context – but the end result is bread that’s full of flavour and texture and, most importantly, those air-pockets that fill up so delightfully with butter, jam, soup, or whatever else you put the slice on or in. It’s also so appealing to look at, beautifully rustic and craggy. And the smell! Well, that’s a given.

No-Knead-Baked-CLose

The recipe comes from the New York Times, and shortens the usual no-knead time from 12 hours to just 4. I’ve even cut the initial rising time back to three hours, on a warm day, and it’s still come out really well. Did I mention I love this recipe?

I have begun to diverge from the recipe a little over time, even though you’d think there wasn’t much room to stray from the simple path it lays out. I keep the ingredients as directed, and while I sometimes monkey with the initial rise time, I generally leave it for four hours – it takes so little time to mix those ingredients together that you can get it started quickly, then go about the next four hours of your day without giving it another thought.

Tip One: Be absolutely positive to mix the dry ingredients well before adding the water. Otherwise your yeast will clump together and you’ll have a devil of a time trying to mix it through the flour.

The dough will be shaggy, as the recipe states. For me, that means it looks like this:

No-Knead-Dough

It’s not a ball of dough, there are no smooth surfaces to be seen. It’s kind of lumpen and unlovely, if we’re honest. That doesn’t matter. Wrap it up tight, keep it cosy, and let the yeast do its work. It’s pretty much lumpen and unlovely all the way, until you take it out the oven at the end and marvel over its beauty. Kind of an ugly duckling situation…er… if that story ended with roast swan for dinner…

Tip two: That was a joke. Do not eat swans. 

After it rises, it will be a little more swampy than before, and when you tip it out onto your well-oiled worktop, you’ll see tons of bubbles, like so:

No-Knead-Bubbles

This is good news. Try not to bash all the air out of the dough, since you’ve made the yeast work double time to create it in the first place. The dough now gets folded over a couple of times, to give it height. I usually go for a four-way fold – imagining the dough as a square, I lift and fold a section from the top and bottom, then from the left and right. I end up with a kind of swag-bag shape. The dough is sticky and joins up easily, to itself and also to your hands.

No-Knead-Parcel

Tip Three: Coat your hands in oil or water to stop the dough from clinging to them. Make sure your surfaces are well oiled, too. 

The bread relaxes for another half hour after you’ve folded it. It is a soft dough, and it won’t hold its shape over this time. You can stick an inverted bowl over the top – making sure to oil any of the bowl that will come into contact with the dough – to prevent it from spreading too much.

Put the oven on to heat in this half hour – it’s going up to 230C, so it needs some time to get there. Also put the baking dish or tin you’ll be using in there, so it’s piping hot before you put the dough in. This is an area where I differ from the recipe – I use a cake tin to bake the bread, instead of a proper dish with a lid. I leave it uncovered, and bake it for less time. It’s not the recommended method, but it works for me.

The moment when you move the risen dough into the baking tin is the worst part of the whole operation. It’s so soft and delicate that you feel sure you’re going to ruin it – or that you’ll never be able to get it off the counter and into the tin. Have courage – you can do it.

No-Knead-Folded

No-Knead-Unbaked

I sprinkle the surface with a little flour, which helps to stop more sticking and lets me shape the dough just a little, enough to make sure it’s the same size as the awaiting tin. I gently pat and turn it with my hands – the turning makes sure that it’s free of the counter. If it sticks, I get in there with a dough scraper and loosen it off. It’s only a matter of time before the moisture in the dough either soaks into the flour on the surface, or re-attaches to the counter, so you do have to move fast. Scoop it up and drop it into the tin, and give the tin a shoogle to even it out in there.

Tip Four: That baking tin is HOT so be careful. Drop the dough from a little way above the tin, so you don’t hit it with the back of your hands and end up with matching burn marks. People will not be sympathetic about those. They may even snigger.

I bake, uncovered as it is, for half an hour. With my oven, this is when the crust is golden and the loaf sounds hollow when I tap on the base.

Tap tap tap...

Tap tap tap…

No-Knead-Baked-

Put the loaf on a rack as soon as you can, to let any extra moisture out, and let it cool a little before slicing into it. It will be difficult to resist. Be strong.

No-Knead-Slice

And there it is. It’s not my recipe, but it’s one I think a lot of people need to know about. Or no-knead to know about. Ahahaha…

Postscript: I just ate the slice of bread in that picture up there, and it was just so good. The bread is moist and chewy (the way I like it), and has a hint of sourdough flavour from the longer rise. Just a hint. A splash of sourdough starter might be the next way I change the recipe. I don’t know, though. It’s pretty darn perfect. 

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Leftovers Povitica (or, Thanksgiving Loaf and Crazy Cupboard Loaf)


This was another post made possible by Sainsbury’s. They’re such enablers. They asked me to come up with and blog these recipes in exchange for vouchers. 

 

I’d been considering making another batch of povitica. It is a time consuming project, no doubt about it, but the end results are really striking, and besides, it had been a couple of years since I made any. So, when Sainsbury’s asked me to pitch an idea for recipes to use up leftover turkey and leftover chocolate, the idea of povitica resurfaced.

 

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I made one turkey and stuffing povitica – otherwise christened Thanksgiving Loaf – and one loaf that used up all kinds of things I had lying in the baking cupboard. There were three kinds of leftover chocolate, half a bag of walnuts, a third of a bag of coconut… you know the sort of thing. I’ll list out exactly what I used a bit later, but what this recipe development really taught me was that you can throw almost anything in this loaf, and it’ll come out delicious. Plus, if you’re making it to share, you can be pretty goshdarn sure that nobody else will be bringing the same thing. If you have some time to devote to it, povitica is an awesome potluck contribution to make.

 

Let’s talk about the process for making this swirly loaf. It starts out like a normal bread. You make and rise the dough as usual – the dough is enriched with eggs, sugar and butter, and I made mine with extra strong bread flour. Once it’s risen, you stree-e-eeeetch it out on the table, until it’s as close to see-through as you can get it. Then you spread on your chosen filling, roll it all up like a swiss roll, and fold it into a loaf pan. A short second rise happens while you heat the oven, then you bake for around an hour. Done! It sounds easy enough, right?

 

Here’s a slideshow of the steps, showing the dough being first rolled, then stretched out, topped, and rolled up. It also shows you more of my flat than you would usually see – yes, that’s a TV in the background. Don’t judge me for having a TV in the kitchen, it’s an open plan living room/kitchen arrangement.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

If truth be told, I didn’t stretch the dough to the very max, but I did get it pretty thin. You can kind of see in this photo – the colour of the sheet underneath it is almost visible, as is my hand. Using a very strong bread flour means that there is more gluten, which in turn means you can stretch out the dough thinner without it breaking.

 

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Now that we all know what povitica is, and we’ve had an overview on the method, let’s get down to the recipe. The recipe for the dough comes courtesty of The Daring Kitchen.

Confession: I didn’t roast a whole turkey and then use the leftovers for this loaf.

Bread Dough (makes two loaves):

  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp plain flour
  • 60 ml warm water
  • 1 tbsp dry yeast
  • 240 ml whole milk
  • 85 g sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 60 g unsalted butter, melted
  • 600 – 750g very strong bread flour
  • oil or melted butter for stretching out

 

First, activate the yeast. Mix the sugar, plain flour, water and yeast in a small bowl, and leave for ten minutes to foam up.

While the yeast is bubbling, heat the milk up to just below boiling, stirring constantly so that a film does not form on the top of the milk and it doesn’t burn at the bottom of the pot. When it gets hot enough it will start to shimmer and shake a little, with wisps of steam rising from it, and at that point you can remove it from the heat. Let it cool for five minutes.

When the yeast is ready, mix the scalded milk, the sugar and the salt until combined. The sugar and  salt will dissolve.

Add the beaten eggs, yeast, melted butter, and 300g of flour. Mix thoroughly – you will have a gloopy batter in the bowl. That’s OK. Slowly – a scoop at a time – add more flour, mixing well after each addition. Eventually you’ll have something that resembles a soft dough, which clears the sides of the bowl. You might not have used all of the flour.

Turn the dough out onto floured surface and knead, gradually adding flour a little at a time, until smooth and does not stick. Now, this step does rely on a bit of bread making experience. If you add too much flour, the bread will be dry. If you don’t add enough, it won’t hold together when you try to stretch it. That said, it’s better to err on the side of not enough flour. I used the full 750g this time, but it does depend on egg size and weather conditions, as well as the absorbency of your flour, how much it will take. Always add it slowly, and knead really well between additions. A dough scraper is really handy to keep the surface clean.

When your dough is ready, it will still be slightly tacky to the touch, but it will no longer stick to the work surface.  You will be able to form it into a ball with a taut, smooth surface. When you pinch up a big bit of the dough, you will be able to gently encourage it to stretch out so thin that you can see light through it.

Split the dough into two even pieces, and place each in an oiled bowl, in a warm place, to rise for about 90 minutes.

 

Make your filling while the dough is rising. Here are the fillings I used.

 

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Turkey and Stuffing Filling:

  • 18 cocktail size sausages
  • 4 overgrown spring onions (yep, those are spring onions!)
  • few sprigs sage
  • 4 – 8 tbsp white wine, stock or water (or a mix thereof)
  • 4 slices smokey bacon
  • salt and pepper
  • 300g cooked turkey meat

 

Pop the sausages out of their casings, and into the bowl of a food processor. Add the sage, and slice up the spring onion – white and green parts – and add that, too. Add 4 tbsp of whatever liquid you have to hand, and process until the meat forms a thick paste.

Chop the bacon into squares, and add to the food processor. Add more liquid if it’s too thick. Pulse a few times to incorporate the bacon without cutting it up too finely.

If you want to check the seasoning before adding anything, heat a frying pan, and fry off half a spoonful of stuffing mixture, flattening it out into a wee burger shape. When it’s cooked through, you can have a taste and decide if it needs any further salt or pepper.

 

 

Povitica Sweet Ingredients

 

Cupboard Leftovers Filling

  • 50g milk chocolate chips
  • Half a bar dark chocolate
  • 100g walnuts, crushed to a coarse crumb
  • 70g (ish) cream cheese
  • 1.2 jar (ish) blackcurrant jam
  • 50g dessicated coconut
  • 4 biscuits, crushed to crumbs
  • 4 squares white chocolate

I melted the milk and dark chocolate together, then stirred in the walnuts.

I also combined the cream cheese with enough jam to make a thick, full-flavoured spread.

These two mixtures were alternated across the dough, when it was ready. The coconut, biscuit crumbs and white chocolate (which I grated) were scattered over the top.

The point of this loaf is that you can use whatever you have lying around – combining a couple of different fillings makes the loaf more interesting, as with every bite you get a new flavour.

 

Back to the dough…

Once the dough is risen, place it on top of a clean sheet on your table. You will need lots of room to work, and the sheet will help you to roll the bread up at the end.

Roll the dough out with your hands and a rolling pin, at first. Once it’s about 10 x 12 inches, you’re ready to start stretching the dough out. Spray the surface of the dough with a neutral oil, or brush with melted butter. Then, working from the middle, lift and stretch the dough out, working your way from one corner to the next, and stretching each side equally. Try to keep the dough in a rectangle shape as you go.

Once the dough is thin enough to see the sheet through it, you’re ready to apply the filling.

 

For the Turkey and Stuffing Loaf:

Drop large spoonfuls of the stuffing across the surface of the stretched out dough, trying to keep them even. Flatten, spread and join up these dollops with the back of a spoon, until the whole dough is covered evenly.

Scatter the turkey over the top, and press down. Spend a few minutes lifting individual pieces and putting them in places there’s a gap (this step is optional, but I couldn’t help myself from doing it).

Roll the dough and arrange in a loaf tin as shown in the pictures above.

 

For the Cupboard Leftovers Loaf:

Spoon alternating heaps of chocolate and cream cheese mixture onto the dough, then flatten and spread out very thinly until the whole surface is covered. Scatter over biscuit crumbs, coconut and grated white chocolate.

Roll and arrange in a tin as above.

 

Cover the loaf tins and set somewhere nice and warm, to plump up.

 

Heat the oven to 180C. When ready, put the loaves in and bake for 15 minutes.

After the 15 minutes is up, check the loaves to make sure they’re not too browned, then lower the oven temperature to 150C and bakc for about another 40 minutes.

If the tops start to brown too much, cover with tinfoil.

Take out of the oven, and allow to completely cool before slicing. This helps the bread hold its shape.

 

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You will be rewarded for your patience with some amazing swirls of colour and flavour inside each loaf.

As I mentioned, you can use any filling you like the sound of. The traditional filling is either walnut-based, or made with poppyseeds. A quick search brings up tons of varieties for you to browse through.

I took both loaves to work, and while people were at first unsure about the idea of a turkey and stuffing loaf, it disappeared in no time flat. Next time I’d consider putting some mashed potatoes and gravy in there, making a full meal of it… But I might be waiting a couple of years to make another. It’s a labour of love, after all.

 

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Sainsbury’s Golden Multiseed Bread Mix


This post was made possible by Sainsbury’s, who sent me a pack of their Golden Multiseed Bread Mix to try. The opinions in the post are, as ever, mine, and the review is honest.

 

They say you should always start with a positive. I do have lots of positive things to say about this product, but I think it’s important to come right out and be honest up front.

I don’t use a lot of bread mixes.

There, I said it.

I feel like they don’t really reduce the amount of work you do, and you may as well go ahead and make a loaf from absolute scratch. However, I will concede that with a seeded loaf, it’s nice not to be weighing and measuring . With this particular mix, the colour of the loaf is really striking, and took a balance of different flours to achieve that but also retain the lovely, soft, good-for-sandwiches texture. So, in those senses, the bread mix does some work for you, and leaves you with only the basics to contend with.

 

 

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The packet comes with instructions, of course, but I felt they could use a little tweaking. So, here is the recipe (copied from the Sainsbury’s website) with my annotations:

 

You will need:

  • 500g Sainsbury’s TTD Golden Multiseed Bread Mix,
  • 320ml Water – Use caution here: I needed less than this. More later.
  • 25g Butter/15ml Olive Oil – I used olive oil

 

To bake by hand:

  • Rub the bread mix with the butter or oil in a bowl with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Gradually add the water to form a soft dough

 

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This part is like making scones, though the fat to flour ratio is much lower than in a scone recipe. I think the idea of adding butter or oil is to add moisture, and to enhance the flavour of the finished bread. 

I only added around 270ml water – definitely take heed of the word ‘gradually’ in the instruction. Add a little at a time. 

My dough was soft but also a bit sticky. In making lots of bread I’ve learned that more moisture means a stickier dough, but also means a lighter finished loaf. 

 

  • Knead well on a floured surface for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic, then place it back in the bowl, cover with lightly oiled cling film. Leave the dough in a warm place for one hour to rise and double in size.

 

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Having wet hands makes it easier to handle the dough without it sticking so much. Oiling your work surface means the dough won’t stick as much, and you won’t dry out the dough by adding extra flour.

I kneaded the dough for a full ten minutes, and it definitely required the full time to be ready. It never got to be completely smooth but it was very stretchy, and formed a taut skin when I shaped it into a ball.

I didn’t have any clingfilm, and simply oiled the bowl, put the dough in, then covered with tea towels. 

 

  • Knead well again on a floured surface for a few minutes, place in a greased 2lb loaf tin. Cover with lightly oiled cling film. Leave the dough in a warm place for half an hour to rise again and increase in size. Preheated oven 230oC/450oF/Gas mark 8

 

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I didn’t exactly follow the directions here – I thought that ‘knead well’ was kind of an unfocused instruction, in terms of then getting your well-kneaded (well-kned…?) dough into the right shape for the loaf pan. I tipped the dough onto the surface, then pressed all the air out with my knuckles and palms, until I had a flat rectangle. I then folded the rectangle to fit my loaf pan, pressed gently but firmly so that I didn’t have any pockets of air trapped in the middle, and put into the tin.

Again, I covered with tea towels instead of cling film, and there was no problem with the dough sticking to them. 

I left it to rise for about an hour, since I got caught up doing something else. It suffered no ill effects from this extended rise.

I love the colour of the bread – it almost looks baked already!

 

  • Remove cling film and bake in the top of the oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

 

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This was the colour of my loaf after 20 minutes, and it was perfectly baked inside. 230C is a very high temperature to bake something, uncovered, for half an hour. I was concerned that the crust would taste burnt, but my worries were needless. It tasted great. Keep an eye, and a nose, on the baking bread. It is cooked when it is browned on top, and (once you take it out the tin…) sounds hollow when tapped.

 

Thus ends my tale of bread mix baking – it was a success! Something else that I found interesting was that the loaf lasted a week, sitting in a tupperware at room temperature. Freshly baked bread is usually more prone to drying out than shop-bought, but this loaf kept really well. It also sliced beautifully, which is something I have struggled with in home baked bread, and had a soft crust that was spot on for sandwiches.

 

 

What I’m saying is, this bread mix made a gosh-darned fine loaf.

 

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Will I change permanently to bread mixes? No.

 

Would I recommend this one? Yes.

 

You do still have to put in almost as much work, but if you’re a little nervous of bread baking, or you’re not sure about dealing with yeast, this is a great place to start. You get practise in kneading, and you get the satisfaction of seeing your bread dough rise, which I think is still my favourite kitchen magic of all. Also, this bread mix contains no preservatives, colourings, emulsifiers or any of that carry on. In fact, its ingredient list is shorter than your average shop-bought loaf.

 

Plus, just look at that crumb:

 

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